Dangerous dog ordinance advances

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LIVERMORE – Selectpersons voted unanimously Monday to proceed with a hearing on a new, stricter dog ordinance and to have a lawyer review it.

The board reviewed the draft ordinance. It will go back to the Planning Board to be finalized, then to a public hearing before it goes to special town meeting for residents to vote on it.

The ordinance incorporates more state law, including new legislation on dangerous dogs that includes attacks on farm animals and adds a component requiring an owner of a court-declared dangerous dog to obtain $300,000 minimum liability insurance. The policy would be required to cover bodily injury or death of any person or animal, or for property damages resulting from the keeping of the dangerous dog.

Anna Sanborn, a Livermore teenager researched dog ordinances and drafted a seven page ordinance that she presented to the town’s Planning Board.

The existing dog ordinance is one page and prohibits dogs from disturbing the peace, running at large and defecating and urinating on other people’s properties.

Selectperson’s Administrative Assistant Kurt Schaub, also a member of the Planning Board, said he worked with Sanborn to bring the ordinance to a manageable level and make it so it did not impose unreasonable requirements on people whose animals did nothing wrong.

The ordinance defines a dangerous dog and outlines other matters such as restraints, the insurance provision, enforcement and penalties.

Sanborn said this spring that she spent countless hours reviewing other towns’ ordinances, including Fayette’s, Lewiston’s and Auburn’s to develop a stricter dog ordinance for Livermore.

Schaub said the idea was to have it tie into state law, but more or less customize it to Livermore’s needs.

The Planning Board unanimously voted to approve a draft ordinance to send it to selectpersons for review.

“Personally I feel like I’m being singled out,” resident Peter Drown said. He said he disagreed with the ordinance, calling it biased and an attack on him.

Drown, 40, admitted to four dog violations in connection to two of his dogs attacking 11 of the Sanborns’ prize goats, killing two of them, in 2006.

He was ordered to pay $1,200 in fines last week in court, not including surcharges. He previously paid more than $700 for other dog violations in 2006.

“This was not an attack on anybody,” Sanborn’s mother, Tammy Sanborn said. “A lot of small towns don’t have dangerous dog ordinances; all the larger towns do.”

Not listing dangerous dogs in an ordinance limits what the courts may do, she said.

Any dog could be dangerous, Drown said.

“All dogs bite. All dogs can be dangerous,” he said. “This law here, everybody would apply to it.”

Drown said $300,000 insurance is a lot of money for a dog, he said.

“Three hundred thousand is a lot of money,” resident Lisa Holt said, but not when it comes to her child or someone else’s.

The owner of a dog that bites a person is responsible to pay for medical treatment, Sanborn said, and the insurance policy would ensure there would be money to help cover any bills.

When asked where the $300,000 figure came from, Sanborn said that Auburn, Lewiston and Old Orchard Beach had that amount in their ordinances and some towns had smaller amounts.

If they go through the court process and a dog is determined to be a dangerous dog and the owner decides to keep, then this puts a little sting in it, Selectperson Tom Berry said.

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